The Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation

HughFreakingDillonHughFreakingDillon WinnipegPosts: 12,120
http://secretpath.ca/

STATEMENT BY GORD DOWNIE
Ogoki Post, Ontario
September 9, 2016

Mike Downie introduced me to Chanie Wenjack; he gave me the story from Ian Adam’s Maclean’s magazine story dating back to February 6, 1967, “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack.”

Chanie was a young boy who died on October 22, 1966, walking the railroad tracks, trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School to walk home. Chanie’s home was 400 miles away. He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where it was, nor know how to find it, but, like so many kids - more than anyone will be able to imagine - he tried. I never knew Chanie, the child his teachers misnamed Charlie, but I will always love him.

Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable, but this begins in the late 1800s and goes to 1996. “White” Canada knew – on somebody’s purpose – nothing about this. We weren’t taught it; it was hardly ever mentioned.

All of those Governments, and all of those Churches, for all of those years, misused themselves. They hurt many children. They broke up many families. They erased entire communities. It will take seven generations to fix this. Seven. Seven is not arbitrary. This is far from over. Things up north have never been harder. Canada is not Canada. We are not the country we think we are.

I am trying in this small way to help spread what Murray Sinclair said, “This is not an aboriginal problem. This is a Canadian problem. Because at the same time that aboriginal people were being demeaned in the schools and their culture and language were being taken away from them and they were being told that they were inferior, they were pagans, that they were heathens and savages and that they were unworthy of being respected — that very same message was being given to the non-aboriginal children in the public schools as well…They need to know that history includes them.” (Murray Sinclair, Ottawa Citizen, May 24, 2015)

I have always wondered why, even as a kid, I never thought of Canada as a country – It’s not a popular thought; you keep it to yourself – I never wrote of it as so. The next hundred years are going to be painful as we come to know Chanie Wenjack and thousands like him – as we find out about ourselves, about all of us – but only when we do can we truly call ourselves, "Canada."

"Do we want to live in a haunted house the rest of our lives?” - Joseph Boyden

Proceeds from the sale of Secret Path will go to The Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation via The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at The University of Manitoba.

The Secret Path will be broadcast by CBC in an hour-long commercial-free television special on Sunday, October 23, 2016, at 9pm (9:30 NT).


Gord Downie began Secret Path as ten poems incited by the story of Chanie Wenjack, a twelve year-old boy who died fifty years ago on October 22, 1966, in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ontario, walking home to the family he was taken from over 400 miles away. Gord was introduced to Chanie Wenjack (miscalled “Charlie” by his teachers) by Mike Downie, his brother, who shared with him Ian Adams’ Maclean’s story from February 6, 1967, “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack.”

The stories Gord’s poems tell were fleshed into the ten songs of Secret Path with producers Kevin Drew and Dave Hamelin. Recording took place over two sessions at the Bathouse in Bath, Ontario, November and December 2013. The music features Downie on vocals and guitars, with Drew and Hamelin playing all other instruments, except guest contributions by Charles Spearin (bass), Ohad Benchetrit (lap steel/guitar), Kevin Hearn (piano), and Dave “Billy Ray” Koster (drums).

In winter 2014, Gord and Mike brought the recently finished music to comic artist Jeff Lemire for his help illustrating Chanie’s story, bringing him and the many children like him to life.

Secret Path acknowledges a dark part of Canada’s history – the long-supressed mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system – with the hope of starting our country on a road to reconciliation.

The ten song album will be released by Arts & Crafts accompanied by Lemire's eighty-eight page graphic novel published by Simon & Schuster Canada. Secret Path will arrive on October 18, 2016, in a deluxe vinyl and book edition, and as a book with album download.

Downie’s music and Lemire’s illustrations have inspired The Secret Path, an animated film to be broadcast by CBC in an hour-long commercial-free television special on Sunday, October 23, 2016, at 9pm (9:30 NT).

Comments

  • HughFreakingDillonHughFreakingDillon WinnipegPosts: 12,120
    go to www.cbc.ca/secretpath to watch the full animated movie along with a discussion panel after it.
  • I visited a historic residential school today.

    I wish to report that I sorely underestimated the long reaching effects the horrific experience residential schools have had on these people.  Given the schools impacted every Indian kid in some manner after The Indian Act... future generations were dramatically altered from then on for multitudes of reasons. These people stood no chance. There is a legitimate reason behind the dysfunction that fuels the negative stereotypes.

    Reconciliation is much more important to me now than it ever was before. What reconciliation looks like... I'm not sure? But I can comfortably say Canada needs to get behind these people and collectively work towards getting them feeling better about themselves and about their role in 21st Century Canada. 
    "My brain's a good brain!"
  • PJ_SoulPJ_Soul Vancouver, BCPosts: 37,930
    edited September 25
    Yeah, an effective education initiative meant for the general public and especially directed to those who live in areas with larger Native populations would be helpful, because, while I don't live in an area where it's a big issue, I know for sure that racism towards Natives is a HUGE problem in many towns and cities across Canada. I have even witnessed people who I consider really open minded say terrible racist shit about them just because they grew up in town near reserves, and this kind of disgusting attitude is absolutely commonplace. There are also people in my own immediate family who have said things that absolutely shocked me - there have been a few heated arguments around the holiday dinner table about it for sure - they have seemed totally oblivious to the systemic abuses that should be reason for compassion and empathy. There is a very disturbing lack of both of those things among so many people.... And it think it largely stems from the fact that Canadians are woefully ignorant to the horrible things that the Native population has endured right up to today. I mean, I told my racist family members that there were still residential schools in the 90s, and they didn't even believe me. I had to Google it and prove it to them. They all thought they didn't exist after the 40s or 50s FFS.... and also concluded that that should somehow mean that it's not as horrible, which also makes no sense. Again shows their ignorance about the kind of terrible damage it all caused up to today. They are basically the Canadian equivalent of those Americans who think that black people should just be "over" slavery by now, as though everything became equal in 1865. It's just so fucking blind and stupid, it's hard to believe.
    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy. ~ Desiderata
  • HughFreakingDillonHughFreakingDillon WinnipegPosts: 12,120
    PJ_Soul said:
    Yeah, an effective education initiative meant for the general public and especially directed to those who live in areas with larger Native populations would be helpful, because, while I don't live in an area where it's a big issue, I know for sure that racism towards Natives is a HUGE problem in many towns and cities across Canada. I have even witnessed people who I consider really open minded say terrible racist shit about them just because they grew up in town near reserves, and this kind of disgusting attitude is absolutely commonplace. There are also people in my own immediate family who have said things that absolutely shocked me - there have been a few heated arguments around the holiday dinner table about it for sure - they have seemed totally oblivious to the systemic abuses that should be reason for compassion and empathy. There is a very disturbing lack of both of those things among so many people.... And it think it largely stems from the fact that Canadians are woefully ignorant to the horrible things that the Native population has endured right up to today. I mean, I told my racist family members that there were still residential schools in the 90s, and they didn't even believe me. I had to Google it and prove it to them. They all thought they didn't exist after the 40s or 50s FFS.... and also concluded that that should somehow mean that it's not as horrible, which also makes no sense. Again shows their ignorance about the kind of terrible damage it all caused up to today. They are basically the Canadian equivalent of those Americans who think that black people should just be "over" slavery by now, as though everything became equal in 1865. It's just so fucking blind and stupid, it's hard to believe.
    I was going to draw the same comparison with the "get over it" with black people and slavery in the US. My parents, who are very nice and intelligent people, often spout off about how the natives get handout after handout and just drink it away and blah blah blah. I can't even count how many times I've tried to educate them, but to no avail. I can only hope my generation is a little more open minded. 
  • The residential schools were designed to eradicate native culture. People were not lined up to handle the responsibilities... this is why the church (various denominations) handled the schools. And... this explains the various levels of abuse and intolerance these people endured.

    I have always understood that conditions were grim, but until Friday, I never fully understood the long term ramifications of such trauma.

    The following 1961 film is government propaganda designed to show people how successful the reservation schools were at converting Indians to a Christian lifestyle:

    http://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/the-eyes-of-children-life-at-a-residential-school

    It's eerie in nature- almost horror film like.

    "My brain's a good brain!"
  • PJ_SoulPJ_Soul Vancouver, BCPosts: 37,930
    edited September 25
    Oh yeah, it's absolutely horrifying. Did they talk about the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School on your tour? It's just one example of how absolutely inhuman and devastating things were, and why the ramifications of these things persist. Yeah, trauma indeed. And aside from the very concrete negative effects of all this continue through generations to today, I'm not sure a lot of people really understand the concept of cultural memory and how that factors in. It's a very important concept in all this. (if you're not really up on this concept, do a little research. I became interested in it when I took a cultural memory special topics course with Roy Miki (renowned Canadian author) back in about 1999. There is a lot of really fascinating literature connected to this concept.

    Post edited by PJ_Soul on
    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy. ~ Desiderata
  • PJ_Soul said:
    Oh yeah, it's absolutely horrifying. Did they talk about the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School on your tour? It's just one example of how absolutely inhuman and devastating things were, and why the ramifications of these things persist. Yeah, trauma indeed. And aside from the very concrete negative effects of all this continue through generations to today, I'm not sure a lot of people really understand the concept of cultural memory and how that factors in. It's a very important concept in all this. (if you're not really up on this concept, do a little research. I became interested in it when I took a cultural memory special topics course with Roy Miki (renowned Canadian author) back in about 1999. There is a lot of really fascinating literature connected to this concept.

    Cultural Memory- a term or concept I have not investigated. In light of my recent experience, I'll check it out. I'll also do a little research on the Mohawk School as well (I'm a sucker for pain).

    Thanks.
    "My brain's a good brain!"
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